Balancing sports an dsocieties with academics, will enrich your UCD experience, write Nora Costigan and Barbara Feeney.
This week, all over Belfield, there are new beginnings- people at the start of an exciting new journey in their lives.
Three months ago they waved goodbye to their old lives in other places where they were top of the pile. Waiting through the deluge of summer, future students prayed fervently that their hard work had paid off to earn them a coveted place in the ever-expanding concrete bastion of education we know as UCD.
But it’s not just fresh-faced first years that are treading the slabs for the first time. UCD will be welcoming new faces in varying other guises also. Erasmus students will arrive in their droves from all over Europe and beyond, for a year of international study and most often an opportunity to learn English in an immersion situation.
Junior Year Abroad will facilitate the arrival of mainly American students, here to inject a semester or two of the Irish experience into their degrees. Also joining for the first time will be postgraduate students, no strangers to the college experience but perhaps new to the UCD version.
And of course, mature students, for whom college and first year is as new as it is to the youngsters but who are approaching it from a different angle, be it through the eyes of a twenty-five-year-old, or indeed the eyes of a fifty-five-year-old.
Either way it is a daunting experience to come here unaccompanied for the first time this week.
It seems that everyone seems to know everyone, and even more incredibly, everyone seems to know their way around the seemingly identical grey buildings, brown corridors and wooden doors.
Of course, choosing to put your head down and get on with your degree without any involvement in extra-curricular activities is up to you, but all you’ll have at the end of three years is a piece of paper. Obviously, a degree is a very worthy piece of paper, but settling for a solely academic life can mean risking a whole new life experience.
The university experience has so much more to offer. Three years is not a long time. Although, at first, it may seem to be stretching in front of you like an interminable highway of trepidation and uncertainty.
However, when broken down, the basic college career is comprised of three, nine month periods. Granted, that does sound like a lot, but students tend to find themselves moving from one exam period straight into another. Or at least, from weeks of nights in the student bar to more.
Getting involved in just one other activity outside of your classes, be it a sports club, a society or the Students’ Union can potentially land you with a whole set of friends, skills, experiences and memories that will turn the college years into cherished times.
By the end of first year the chances are you will be looking for as many ways as possible to prolong your time as a student: learning a new language and culture while on Erasmus, taking a Junior Year Abroad in the US, or even taking a post graduate degree in good old Belfield.
Never-mind what people used to say about your schooldays being the best of your life, that was just a placatory tactic! These days that you are about to embark on are the ones to remember. There are literally hundreds of groups catering for even the narrowest of niche interests. All you have to do is look around and there’ll be something there for you.
The UCD Horizons programme was established with the intention of broadening and deepening students’ degrees.
Second year Psychology student, Barbara Feeney decided to broaden her learning and opted to study electives from outside her specific course. An Arts student, Feeney opted to take a course in first Law. Despite having little prior knowledge of the legal ways of the world, Feeney has a keen interest to learn more about the subject. Plus, she believed that a basic background in law may stand to her in the future. While early classes left Feeney a bit intimidated by the law students’ expansive knowledge, and she tended to refrain from answering questions, this feeling was short lived.
“I began to participate more, understanding that the other students knew just as much as I did. After twelve weeks I had established a great understanding of the subject, despite my initial feelings of having a disadvantage.”
Being encouraged to participate in accessible lectures and tutorials meant that Feeney struck up some new friendships with the law students and thoroughly enjoyed her Roebuck experience.
As she picked her elective options for this year, Feeney’s positive episode in Roebuck has meant that she has searched for electives across the Colleges in UCD, and is about to attempt a beginners spanish class.
“I found choosing to study an elective that was outside of my core course was extremely beneficial. Not only did I acquire an understanding of law, but I had the opportunity to meet other students, and experience the teaching of different lecturers”.
From the staples like soccer, rugby and hockey to the more obscure fencing, snowboarding and trampolining, everyone’s sporting appetite will be satisfied by the dizzying variety of sports club in UCD.
Regardless of whether you’ve been a pro player throughout your secondary school career, or if you were scared stiff of PE class since the age of five, joining a sports club offers new skills, new friends and a sometimes daunting, yet enjoyable experience.
Sports clubs offer the very important regular physical activity that exam time in the library often smothers, and this release can serve to strengthen your college experience.
Women’s Basketball club Secretary, Georgina Dwyer, describes extra-curricular activities as “almost a necessity… If you just trudge your way through academics you get burnt out.”
Not only did Dwyer improve her dribbling in her time with the club, she also gained some unexpected skills. “A lot of people find themselves in a very organisational or important role within the club. It helps you mature a lot within a matter of months.”
Although signing up for the first time can be a daunting prospect, Mens’ Boat Club Captain, Naoise Grisewood understands the importance of just “giving it a go”. Despite having never rowed before, Grisewood decided to jump ship when he came to UCD and hasn’t looked back.
Physical exercise can hit the back burner for many students once academic pressures start to come down hard, however both Dwyer and Grisewood believe that have their grades not suffered due to their time on the playing fields.
Instead, Grisewood feels that focusing on the game in hand makes students much better with time management. “We end up turning in the same results as people who haven’t ever joined a sports club and who have loads of spare time”.
For students who can’t wait to jump on a soapbox and speak their mind, and for those who just hope to strike up a few new friendships, UCD offers an almost infinite number of societies, all eagerly jumping to sign up freshers.
The scores of societies who will be battling for your signature next week span almost every interest; debating, drama, jazz, volunteering, photography, and of course there’s a lot more, are all catered for by student societies.
Joining up may be the tricky part, but students who do so are highly rewarded.
Spanish Society Auditor, Brendan Moore threw himself in the deep end last year when decided to run the Spanish society with a couple of friends.
“It was just ourselves and our own ideas”. Moore’s ideas included conversation evenings where erasmus and Irish students could chat casually, improving their language skills.
Proving that joining a society can lead to many new friendships, these language sessions quickly turned a little more relaxed, Moore explains that “we’d often move onto the bar after and just keep practising”.
Between salsa classes, a spanish play and a language ball, the society gathered each week, and Moore agrees that being involved “definitely opened me up to people in my classes and it was great to get everyone together”.
Having gotten so much out of his experience with the Spanish society, Moore advises every student to “look out for societies who do something each week… it doesn’t matter how big or small the society is”.